12 ULAR vs. 4 ISU
Time: 6:10 PM CT
Spread: ISU -6
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
Iowa State took care of business against No. 13 seeded Iona in the first round, winning 94-81 to advance and face Arkansas Little Rock in the round of 32 Saturday. The Cyclones will be 6 point favorites according to college basketball oddsmakers at 5dimes, who also set the total at 144 for this game.
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Six-foot-eight senior forward Georges Niang had a huge game in the tourney opener. Niang had 28 points on 11 of 23 shooting and also finished with six rebounds, three assists, a block and two steals in 37 minutes of play. He had 31 points, seven boards and five assists in Indiana’s 79-76 loss to Oklahoma On Mar. 10. Niang is Iowa State’s leading scorer at 20 points per game, and he shot 54.4 percent from the field this season while knocking down threes at a 38.2 percent clip (hitting 1.5 per game).
Junior guard Monte Morris also scored 20 points in the win over Iona. He averaged 14.1 points per game this season while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor. Morris connected on 7 of 12 against Iona while grabbing three rebounds and dishing eight assists. He has averaged 5.6 assists per game over Iowa State’s past four contests and his performance in the win over Iona capped a cold streak as he had made just 5 of 24 from the field in the previous three games combined.
Getting consistent and good shooting from Morris is imperative if the Cyclones want to keep pressing on in this tournament. Iowa State shot 50 percent from the field as a team this season while averaging 82 points per game. The Cyclones are capable of putting big points on the board and that has to be a concern for 12th seeded Arkansas Little Rock.
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Arkansas Little Rock improved to 30-4 on the season with its surprise 85-83 victory over the Purdue Boilermakers in its tourney opener. The Trojans came back from 13 down to win the game and senior guard Josh Hagins had a big one: he scored 31 points on 10 of 20 shooting while dishing out six assists and grabbing seven rebounds. He had scored just five points in the previous contest against UL-Monroe, but cracked out of a shell to explode in game 1 of the tournament.
Hagins, a 6’1” guard, averaged 13.4 points per game this season while also tallying 4.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. He is a good shooter and knocked down 45 percent from the floor while connecting on 38 percent from three on 4.3 attempts per game.
Arkansas Little Rock’s No. 2 scorer was Marcus Johnson Jr. He is another small guard at 5’11”, but the junior averaged 12.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game this season or the Trojans and he shot an outstanding 46.5 percent from three-point range while making over two per game. Johnson took just eight shots against Purdue, but he connected on four of them, scoring 10 points to go with his eight rebounds.
Despite being just 5’11”, he does average over three rebounds per game and is capable of chasing down a lot of “50/50” balls. If Johnson and Hagins can both get it cooking shooting the ball and play typical pestering defense, the Trojans could end up being one of the Cinderella stories of this tournament. It is difficult to envision the Trojans taking down the Cyclones in this one, but the six-point spread testifies that these teams are fairly closely matched even if Iowa State is a bigger and more talent-rich program.
The Trojans have a talented backcourt capable of wreaking havoc, but the team really lacks anyone capable of challenging Niang. If Iowa State can get its star player going in this one, there may be no one capable of stopping him.